Manchester City.

by s.m.

On the way back to the Velvet, she debated what to do next.  She could wait for Paolo up in the room, or she could have a drink in the bar.  Though she would love to wrap herself in a bathrobe and sit in front of the fire, she felt like it would be a waste to come all the way to England, dressed as nicely as she was, and not at least give Paolo the chance to see her.  She settled on the bar.

Babe, I’m waiting for you in the bar.  She sent him a text.

Be there soon.  The entirety of his reply.  It was hard to tell over text, but he didn’t seem to be in the best of moods.  She ordered a Fernet and Coke, and the bartender looked at her like she was an alien.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Milano,” she replied.  “You do have Fernet-Branca, don’t you?”

He turned to the wall of bottles behind him.  “Sure you don’t want a cosmo?” he asked hopefully, squinting at the shelves.

“She’s looking for Fernet, mate,” a voice said from behind her.  A man in a tweed blazer, printed button-down shirt and jeans.  “Second shelf, third bottle from the left,” he directed the bartender.

Francesca turned to the man.  “Thank you,” she said.

“Probably his first night,” the man replied, slightly under his breath.  “Poor bloke.”

The bartender set Francesca’s drink on the marble bar in front of her.

“Add it to mine,” the tweed blazer man said.

“No, it’s fine,” Francesca protested.  “I’m meeting someone.”

The tweed blazer man looked around.  “Not yet you aren’t,” he replied.  He extended his hand.  “Gavin,” he said.  “Call me Gav.”

“Francesca.”

“Waiting for your boyfriend?”  She nodded.  “Rude of him to keep you waiting,” Gavin said.

“He’s on his way,” she answered.

Gavin leaned in.  He wasn’t unattractive, she thought, he was sort of handsome in that English way, kind of a mix of Jude Law and Jamie Oliver.  “You sure of that?” he asked her.

She considered telling him, if she actually thought it would turn him off enough to leave.  But he was the type to see a fancy football-playing boyfriend, absent as he was, as a challenge.  He wouldn’t leave her alone.  It would just cause more trouble.

She swirled her drink, clinking the ice cubes against the sides of the tall glass.  “I’m certain,” she replied.